Venus eclipsed by Ja­pan’s ris­ing star Osaka

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

HONG KONG: Venus Wil­liams suf­fered a shock exit in the sec­ond round of the WTA Hong Kong Open yes­ter­day, com­pre­hen­sively beaten 7-5, 6-2 by teenager Naomi Osaka. Ja­pan’s top-ranked player reeled off eight con­sec­u­tive games at one stage to power into the quar­ter-fi­nals. It all seemed to be go­ing to plan for sec­ond seed Wil­liams when she broke the 19-year-old Osaka in the fifth game of the open­ing set. But then the Amer­i­can’s first serve de­serted her when serv­ing for the set at 5-4.

Two dou­ble faults and a se­ries of fierce ground strokes from Osaka which un­err­ingly kissed the lines en­abled the world num­ber 64 to break twice and take the set 7-5. “She played well,” a dis­ap­pointed 37-year-old Wil­liams told re­porters. “You know, I made a few er­rors at 5-4 and after that she played pretty flaw­less. I can only give her credit.”

Osaka, who made head­lines when she knocked An­gelique Ker­ber out of the US Open in the first round last month, con­tin­ued in the same vein at the start of the sec­ond set and raced into a 5-0 lead.

“I felt like I played of­fen­sively and hit really deep hard balls but she had the luck to­day and could re­turn those balls even harder and deeper,” said Wil­liams. Wil­liams

briefly ral­lied to 5-2, but after a pep talk from Osaka’s coach, the Ja­panese re­fo­cused and closed out the match on her serve at the sec­ond time of ask­ing after an hour and 24 min­utes. “Venus is some­one I’ve re­spected and ad­mired,” said Osaka, who was not born when Wil­liams reached her first Grand Slam fi­nal at the 1997 US Open. “I’ve grown up watch­ing her. Even though she some­one I ad­mire, it’s just an­other op­po­nent at the end of the day so I tried to fo­cus hard.”

RI­VALRY RE­NEWED

Ear­lier, the sev­enth seed Daria Gavrilova bat­tled into the quar­ter-fi­nals with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 win over Amer­i­can Shelby Rogers. Rogers and Gavrilova re­newed their ri­valry at Vic­to­ria Park after set­ting a record for the longestever women’s sin­gles match last month, with a three hours and 33 minute epic at the US Open.

“I was really mo­ti­vated,” said world num­ber 22 Gavrilova after aveng­ing her Flush­ing Mead­ows de­feat. “She has such a great serve I knew I had to take my chances on her sec­ond serve.”

Rogers had come out on top 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 in their marathon New York en­counter but on this oc­ca­sion Gavrilova raced to vic­tory in the first set 6-1 in just 26 min­utes. Rogers, ranked 55, hit back im­me­di­ately to take the sec­ond 6-2 in a scrappy en­counter lit­tered with er­rors.

With both play­ers com­ing un­der pres­sure on their serve in the fi­nal set, it seemed a mat­ter of who would crack first. And at 2-2 and 0-30 it was Rogers who blinked, serv­ing back-to-back dou­ble faults to hand the Rus­sian-born Aus­tralian the cru­cial break. An­other fol­lowed and the Aus­tralian closed out the match in an hour and 44 min­utes.

Sam Stosur en­sured there would be two Aus­tralians in the last eight when she came from a set down to oust fourth seed Ag­nieszka Rad­wan­ska in the fi­nal match of the evening 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.

The Pol­ish world num­ber 18 started strongly and was a set and break up be­fore Stosur struck back to level at 3-3 in the sec­ond. From then on the Aus­tralian con­stantly pres­sured the Rad­wan­ska serve, and a sec­ond break in the ninth game of the sec­ond set also broke the Pole’s re­solve. Stosur, the 2011 US Open cham­pion, raced through the fi­nal set to love to take her ca­reer record against Rad­wan­ska to four wins in five meet­ings.

“I feel I played really well and ag­gres­sively,” said Stosur. “Ev­ery­thing I tried came off. Really happy to be in the quar­ter-fi­nals.” — AFP

Venus Wi­il­iams

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